Article of the Year 2023: El Centro saves Pattison’s West Skate Rink

With the 24-hour, year-round news cycle, readers have a lot of information to remember. Throughout the Mirror’s coverage in the past year, one story stands out in particular.

The Article of the Year is “El Centro’s expansion includes saving roller skating rink,” the story of how nonprofit El Centro de la Raza saved the beloved Pattison’s West Skate Rink from demolition and instead, is preserving the site in its form as an addition to a larger campus plan.

Pattison’s West, the skating jewel of South King County, was purchased by El Centro for around $6.5 million in October 2022.

“We definitely want to see the continuation of the roller rink,” Executive Director Estela Ortega said. “We think it is a good activity, for families, youth, children, and really people of all ages.”

The nonprofit organization operates its Federal Way office across the street from the roller rink and plans to buy several connected parcels owned by the Pattisons, expanding El Centro’s operations and building new housing and community space over the next several years.

The full name of El Centro de la Raza translates to “The Center for People of All Races” in English. The organization, founded by the Latino community, offers youth and veteran services, business and housing development, basic and emergency services for families and more.

The master plan will see the skating rink with El Centro’s new three-story community center, office, artist space and youth services center constructed at the opposite end of the triangle-shaped property.

Across the street from the rink, El Centro will build new spaces for small businesses, an early child development center and two new affordable housing developments totaling 208 units on South 341st Place.

“This is not just about housing,” Ortega previously told the Mirror. “We are creating community here, programs and activities for people from all walks of life. That’s what we [see] happening with Pattison’s and our property.”

The entire project could receive millions in federal funding. U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash. 9th District) successfully included it as one of his requests for the House Appropriations Committee this year. Smith represents the Federal Way, SeaTac, south Seattle and Bellevue area in Congress.

For the project to receive that federal funding, both chambers of Congress will need to agree on their overall government funding bill.

That funding will help El Centro purchase the parcels of land to develop all five properties in the master plan. In the meantime, El Centro has secured a $5.2 million loan from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission and received around $1.2 million from the State of Washington.

The Pattisons have a long history in the area. Mike Pattison’s grandfather started the Redondo rink in 1936, but it burned down in 1951. Mike’s parents moved to Spokane after that, where they started Pattison’s North. In 1966, Mike’s grandparents bought the Federal Way property. It was heavily forested at the time and didn’t open as a rink until 1979.

After they made the decision to look for buyers, a handful of churches and businesses expressed interest in the property, the Pattisons said, and not all of them would have kept the rink.